Just over a year ago B and I’s food shopping bill was out of control; we were spending £10 here, £20 there popping into the small supermarket on the way home to pick up a pizza (and wine)… it was a total scattergun approach to meal times and it was costing us both financially. It was also costing me my health too as despite all the cameras inside me, food elimination diets and food allergy testing, I still had no idea (apart from weirdly, tiger bread) what would set me off.
Around the same time, I also realised that when I was stressed, cooking helped. It wasn’t about the actual eating of the food but the process of preparing a meal that relaxed me. A tiny little light bulb went on in my head and I made a conscious decision to change my ways; more time in the kitchen for me, better food (and a fuller wallet) for both of us. We decided that from that point on I would cook everything from scratch and on a £200 a month budget – for all meals, for two people, lunches and dinners – I am not promising we make that budget every month but I get pretty damn close!
We eat the Paleo diet 80% of the time (you can read my other Paleo posts here) and this is how we do it:
- I meal plan every week (and do it online) - every sunday I choose 5 recipes for the week which I usually find via pinterest. I actually must admit I didn’t really understand pinterest until I started using it to find recipes but now when I have a spare moment I pop online and update my Paleo board with new AIP, Whole 30, and Paleo recipes so when it comes to my Sunday meal planning I have plenty of choice. The paleo diet (and the more restrictive variations like AIP) is my usual diet as it never uses packets or pre-made ingredients which immediately helps reduce the possibility (or craving!) for anything that could possible make me sick. I also look for ‘normal’ recipes where non-paleo carbs can be easily substituted for paleo alternatives.
- I have a fully stocked larder - oils, vinegars (sherry, white, red) raw honey, muscovado sugar, gluten free worcester sauce (the only packaged sauce I use!) vegetarian bouillon, gluten free stock cubes and as many spices as I can fit in my kitchen. I buy jars of garlic, lemongrass, chilli, ginger for ease, but if you have allergies check the ingredients first. Having all the basics in means a much cheaper and quicker shop each week, it may seem more expensive at first but I promise it is better in the long run.
- I don’t stick to the plan - most meals can be changed at the last minute if you don’t fancy them; planned a shepherds pie? Make meatballs instead. Even though I love cooking, and I want to make meals which test out new skills or flavours, on days I really don’t want to cook I don’t want to be faced with having to make something elaborate. Each week I always choose a couple of easy recipes which I can throw in the oven or modify and forget about so I have more lounging on the sofa time.
As an example, this was last week’s meal plan:
- This week’s soup – french onion (I made massive pot made on Sunday and it did us for the week for lunches)
- Monday – chicken wrapped in pancetta, stuffed with garlic & herbs, served with left over veg from the sunday roast and topped up with some extra leeks & cabbage (done!)
- Tuesday – goats cheese salad with sticky onions (made with sherry vinegar & brown sugar) and garlic & herb croutons to go with this as a non-paleo treat (done!)
- Wednesday – my slow cooked bbq ribs with sweet potato fries and corn on the cob (done!)
- Thursday – stuffed peppers with corgette, onion and chorizo, served with butternut squash chips (we actually ate in the pub!)
- Friday – Moroccan shepherds pie – I was planning on using this recipe from Our Four Forks with balsamic sprouts (we actually had steak, sweet potato fries and wilted spinach)
- Saturday – we usually eat out (which has a separate budget!) or have a steak as a treat (we also ate in the pub!)
- Sunday – a roast dinner bought on the day with whatever veg I have left from the week (a curry with the mother-in law for Mother’s Day)
- Breakfasts – eggs, bacon, avocado, tomato, spinach…. oh and chilli sauce!
Goats cheese salad with sticky onions
Chicken with pancetta and leeks
Now it hasn’t been plain sailing; as you can see we made it to Thursday without it all collasping. However it is a huge improvement on what we were doing before. I still find on days that i’m particularly stressed that I reach for the takeaway app on my phone (I crave sushi so often!) or suggest a ‘date night’ on the way home from work, but I know that if I can get myself into the kitchen and actually start cooking that I will love it. I instantly relax, the stress goes out of my head and I focus on what is in front of me. I also know I can actually cook – I have a good base starting point which means I rarely feel like a failure…. which is always a good thing!
Mrs S x